Holy See on Economic Crisis and Development

“We Reiterate Our Plea That the Poorest Countries Be Given Priority”

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NEW YORK, JULY 2, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the June 26 address given by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, in a conference on “The World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development.”

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Mr. President,

The Holy See welcomes this opportunity to comment on the recommendations now emerging from the discussions that have been taking place on the impact of the global financial and economic crisis on developing countries. In doing so, we applaud again the initiative taken by the UN over the past months to include its entire membership in the discussions.

We must not forget that it is poor people both in developed and in developing countries who suffer most and who are least able to defend themselves against the impact of this crisis. Loss of jobs in the former and lack of access to employment, food, basic healthcare and education facilities in the latter are a daily daunting reality. At the conclusion of the Development Committee meetings in late April, the World Bank estimated that an additional 55-90 million people will now be trapped in extreme poverty in 2009, especially women and children; meanwhile, the number of chronically hungry people is expected to climb to over 1 billion individuals this year. Moreover, prospects for overcoming extreme poverty by 2015 by way of the eight globally agreed Millennium Development Goals have also receded.

Consequently, for the Holy See, there is, first and foremost, a compelling moral obligation to address these worsening social and economic disparities which undermine the basic dignity of so many of the world’s inhabitants. At the same time Church institutions all over the world have seized the momentum to foment new structures of solidarity and to call for and encourage the redirection of the national and global financial and economic systems towards the principles of justice, solidarity and subsidiarity.

Given the vulnerability of so many of the world’s poor, we endorse the proposed approach to protect them with short-term stabilization measures while using longer term measures to help ensure sustainable financial flows and reduce the likelihood of this crisis reoccurring. We also urge that the future agenda be not overly ambitious. Short-term actions must focus on means that are capable of bringing tangible relief within a reasonable time period to individuals most in need. Longer term measures — which often may require developing a stronger political consensus to realize them — should focus on actions that support sustainability. We therefore support the proposed practical balance between short-term needs for effective action and the longer term proposals to review the framework of the global economic system.

In terms of specific action, we welcome the commitments made at the G20 London Summit last April to make available more than $1 trillion in additional assistance. Unfortunately, however, only a small part of this assistance was targeted for the poorest developing countries. Hence, it is essential that adequate financial assistance still be directed to these countries, whose financing needs must be closely monitored. It is also important that such assistance be extended with minimal conditionality from the IFIs.

We are conscious of the human and social dimensions of this global crisis. In light of that, we support measures aimed at strengthening food security, the protection of social expenditures, and, more generally, a people centered focus of public expenditure. In this regard, we welcome particularly the proposals for the necessary additional resources to be made to the World Bank’s Vulnerability Financing Framework.

The new global crisis should not be a pretext for forgetting old concerns. At the Doha Conference, we stressed the importance of reaffirming the principle of sustainable financial development and ensuring a sustainable path of development for all developing countries. Specifically, the elimination of agricultural export subsidies is one measure that can provide significant benefits to very poor developing countries. This essentially moral prerogative has become even more urgent in the intervening period as the global financial crisis has worsened. We therefore join Member states in pressing for a speedy conclusion to the WTO Doha Round, inasmuch as it respects the commitments in favor of the Least Developed Countries. Likewise, it is essential for developed countries to maintain their existing ODA commitments.

In terms of measures aimed at preventing a reoccurrence of this crisis in the future, we support practical and enforceable regulations to ensure global transparency and oversight at all levels of the financial system. Underlying the current economic crisis is an ideology which places individuals and individual desires at the center of all economic decisions. The practice of economics has reflected this ideological focus and has sought to remove values and morality from economic discussions rather than seeking to integrate these concerns into creating a more effective and just financial system.

This world view has created a society in which short-term economic and personal gains are made at the expense of others and have the effect of creating an individualism lacking recognition of the shared rights and responsibilities necessary to create a society respecting the dignity of all people.

As the UN community assumes this collective responsibility to support the poorest developing countries at this time of financial crisis, we believe it is appropriate to recall the reflections of Pope Benedict XVI at the beginning of this year in celebrating World Day of Peace. He placed special emphasis on the essential need for a ‘strong sense of global solidarity’ between rich and poor countries to address effectively the fight against poverty. His appeal was essentially a moral one, based on the common good for all human beings.

In the field of international commerce and finance there are processes at work which permit a positive integration of economics leading to an overall improvement in conditions. At the same time, however, there are processes at work in the opposite direction that marginalize peoples and can lead to wars and conflicts. Despite the enormous growth in trade since the Second World War, there remain many low income countries still marginalized in terms of trade. In such countries, many of which are in Africa, there is a fundamental issue of global equity at stake. In the area of finance, too, the recent crisis demonstrates how financial activity can be self-centered and short-term in perspective, lacking any long-term consideration of the common good.

In closing, we reiterate our plea that the poorest countries be given priority at this time of crisis and that an ethical approach be adopted (i) in economics by those active in international markets; (ii) in politics by those in public office; and (iii) to allow for inclusive participation by all members of civil society. Only if such an approach is adopted can true global solidarity be achieved.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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